Job questions why he suffers.

Job may be the most contemporary of characters in Israel’s scriptures. He is the original good man to whom bad things happen. The story starts in the heavens where God and Satan disagree. Satan maintains Job is a believer in God because he has it so good — a wonderful wife, many children, abundant flocks. God maintains Job is an authentic believer whose faith does not rest on prospering. God and Satan put Job to the test.

Job suffers terribly from the loss of his flocks and his children. His wife thinks he should curse God. Job doesn’t curse God but wishes he were dead. When friends hear of his suffering, they come to help him. Their analysis and advice make up most of the chapters between Job 3 and 38.

These friends think Job must have sinned, should admit it, and hope to prosper again. They subscribe to a theology that equates prosperity with keeping the commandments and sees suffering as the result of sin.

Job maintains he has not sinned, that there is no reason these bad things have happened to him. He asks the great human question — why.

Sunday’s first reading is the passage in which God finally answers Job. God speaks out of a awesome, destructive natural phenomenon, a whirlwind. God never gives Job a satisfactory answer but instead says, who are you to ask why? Where were you when I made the world? God calls Job to awe and fear at God’s power as the foundation of faith.

God speaks to Job.

Then the Holy One answered
Job out of the whirlwind:
Who shut the sea within doors
when it burst out from the womb?
When I made the clouds
its garments,
and thick darkness
its swaddling band?
When I set limits for it
and fastened the bar of its door,
and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped?

Job 38.1,8-11

  • What insights have you come to about why bad things happen to good people?